Conservatives pledge a big co-op society

Pledges from the Conservative Party's manifesto revolve around the idea of a `Big Society`.

The election document said Britain needs a new approach; "social responsibility, not state control; the Big Society, not big government".

If the Tories were to come to power, it said they would redistribute power to individuals, families and local communities.

Said the report: "We will give public sector workers back their professional autonomy. They will be accountable to the people they serve and the results they achieve will be made transparent. If people don’t like the service they receive they will be able to choose better alternatives. In this way, we will create opportunities for people to take power and control over their lives."

The biggest hand-over of power would be in the public sector where it would allow workers to gain ownership of the services they deliver through co-operative models.

Individuals and groups would also have the power to call a public referendum on any local issue, so long as it is supported by five per cent of the local population.

Other initiatives include giving people a say over other public services such as policing, schools and hospitals.

It also said a Conservative government would back the co-operative ownership models in football and called for Network Rail to be made more accountable to its customers.

David Coulter, Deputy Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK, said: “Co-operatives UK welcomes the central theme of the document — empowering people to take control of government and state services — and the interest expressed in co-operatives.

"Co-operatives are an ideal vehicle for empowerment as they encompass democracy, solidarity and working together. They encourage trust and offer people to have a genuine say in the services that matter to them. 

"Further to our campaigns on issues including football club ownership, we particularly welcome the explicit commitment to co-operative ownership of football clubs by their supporters in the Conservative manifesto.

"The proposals to give public sector workers ownership of the services they deliver through employee-led co-operatives are a welcome recognition of the power of employee engagement, so important in many co-operatives.

"Co-operatives already play a role in many other of the manifesto areas including community services under right to bid, housing provision, community scale energy generation, greener lifestyles and local food. We hope that the Conservatives would help grow the role of co-operatives in these areas, alongside football clubs and public services."

Co-operative Party General Secretary Michael Stephenson added: "Cameron’s faux mutualism is not ‘people power’, it’s simply bogus. The Tory manifesto may look slick on the dust jacket, but the George Osborne small print tells a different story.

"Giving local libraries to librarians to run as they like and giving them the power to sell it off, pocket the profits and shut up shop is the last thing that communities want. It’s ersatz ‘people power’. The real ‘people power’ manifesto was launched by Labour, and it supported real plans for community control, by users, not just by vested interests.

"It’s the same with George Osborne’s plan to sell off cheap shares in the rescued banks that can be sold on for a quick buck at taxpayers’ expense. He called it a peoples bank. But it’s no different than the Thatcher sales of British Telecom and British Gas in the 1980s.

"Cameron’s party are no more committed to mutuals now than when they were in government and forced through legislation to turn the old building societies into the banks that caused the financial mess we are in."

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